Rosemont, Illinois – Adult-sized all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not safe for children, with young drivers representing a large number of ATV deaths and injuries, according to a U.S. report published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Currently there are approximately 9.5 million ATVs in use in the United States, and more than 150,000 ATV-related injuries reported annually. The report found that the rapid rise in injuries is due to increased use and also to the production of larger, faster and more powerful vehicles.

“Most accidents are rollovers, when the vehicle tips over and crushes the rider,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sawyer, lead author of the study. “Children, because of their low weight and strength, are unable to correct the rollover and get crushed. Other injuries unique to ATV accidents include partial or complete foot amputations, usually secondary to the foot being caught in the chain, and clothesline-type injuries to the head and neck that occur when the rider strikes a clothesline or fence.”

Although only 15 per cent of ATV riders are children, they account for approximately 27 per cent of ATV-related injuries and 28 per cent of ATV-related deaths. In addition to being unable to correct a rollover, young riders may also take more risks than older drivers.

“The incidence and severity of injuries has increased dramatically during the past ten years, and most of these injuries are preventable,” Dr. Sawyer said. “Unfortunately, there is a high prevalence of life-threatening injuries, such as head injuries, abdominal injuries and thoracic injuries. In addition, there is a large public health cost that is not only in terms financial, but in productive life-years lost. In other words, this is a problem that affects young people with many productive years ahead of them.”

The report found that orthopaedic injuries are the most commonly-reported in ATV accidents, and that in 80 per cent of accidents, the injured person is the driver, rather than the passenger. In 2007, 27 per cent of injuries occurred in children younger than 16 years old.

“Children are going to ride ATVs, so they need to do it safely,” Dr. Sawyer said. “These are motor vehicles, not toys, and parents should use the same guidelines they would when allowing their children to drive cars. For example, you would not let your ten-year-old drive a car, so why would you let him or her drive an ATV that can weigh hundreds of pounds and go up to 100 mph? The most important ways to prevent injury are adult supervision, helmets, protective clothing and age-appropriate vehicles.”

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